Posts Tagged ‘monch’

Experiencing the Top of Europe on the Jungfrau

October 14, 2012

We have been home almost two weeks now.  We never quite caught up on posting about the remainder of our trip until now (and we slipped in a post for Columbus 🙂

Before we get into the last post about the “Top of Europe,” here is what we plan to do with the blog after the trip. Most likely once or twice per week, we’ll try to post content much like you’ve seen so far.  There is so much much history, culture, art, nature, and many photos going along with these items which we want to share.  Hopefully you will like reading about it as much as we like writing about it.  So check back in occasionally or sign up for email alerts over on the right side of the page, as we would love for you to continue the journey with us.

Eiger Monch Jungfrau

The Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau Peaks

We wrap up our trip with a breathtaking journey to the “Top of Europe,” and we mean that quite literally. At 13,642 feet above sea level, the Jungfrau peak is the highest point in Europe and almost everything becomes strenuous. This is one of three peaks clustered together, the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Some stories say the mountains represent the monk (Mönch) protecting the maiden (Jungfrau) from the evil ogre (Eiger). These peaks also front Europe’s longest glacier, the Great Aletsch Glacier (14 miles long, 3300 feet deep). All combined, it creates a panorama of the kind of beauty that can bring tears to your eyes.

Jungfrau View

View of the Valley Beyond the Peaks

To get to the Jungfrau, we took a cogwheel train through a tunnel system in the Eiger, which began construction in 1893 and was completed in 1912. At the top (11,716 ft), we came out at the Sphinx astronomical observatory, clinging to the high point like some sort of lopsided shanty. Appearances aside, it offers an astounding view of the both the heavens and the earth.

Sphinx Observatory

The Sphinx Observatory

From the observatory, you can wander through a network of tunnels leading outside for the 45-minute hike across the edge of the glacier to the peak of the Mönch for a delicious and well-earned meal at the Mönchsjoch Hütte (Mönch’s Hut), a little way station perched on the side of the peak. Here you can enjoy a decadent concoction of bread smothered in 1/2 inch of Swiss cheese, ham, sausage, and all topped with a fried egg. It’s OK–hiking at that altitude burned those calories off pretty fast.

Great Aletsch Glacier

The Great Aletsch Glacier

On a side note, literature fans will also enjoy the fact that JRR Tolkein once toured the Berner Oberland area and was inspired by what he saw. The beautiful and gentle Lauterbrunnen valley became Rivendell. The glacial river rushing through the Lauterbrunnen valley at the foot of the Jungfrau also flows through Rivendell as the “Brunnen” river. The Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau make their appearance as the three peaks of the Misty Mountains in Khazad-dûm: Caradhas, Fanuidhol, and Celebdil–where Gandalf battled the Balrog. Tolkein loved the lore of Northern Europe, but he was enchanted by the geography as well.

Jungfrau from Valley

Tolkein’s View of the Jungfrau

The valley itself is astoundingly lovely, with rough snow sheets melding into rolling pasture land. You can watch the occasional avalanche or herd of ibex above you in the mountains.

Ibex

Some Ibexes…Ibeces…Ibexi…an Ibex and Another Ibex

Switzerland- Land of Mountains, Trains, Gondola Lifts, and, Well, Cheese (and Chocolate)

October 3, 2012

Switzerland, small and landlocked in the middle of Europe with the Alps on the southern border, is a beautiful country with a postcard-like ambiance across most of its land. For us, given our interest in nature, hiking, mountains, trains and more, we wanted to give it a shot.  Since we were already across the pond, plane tickets were cheap. Through a handy-dandy guide book, we found a lady who rents part of her cabin (sectioned off much like an apartment or B&B room) for less than most hotel rooms you would find driving across the U.S. Put all of that together and you have a room with a view like this….

Gimmelwald WindowView

Our View in Gimmelwald, Switzerland

This is a view from our cabin in the little town of Gimmelwald. The Google map link below will give you an idea about where this is in the southern central part of the country. If you are a Google Earth user, search for this town name in Switzerland and tilt the view to see the elevation, and you will get a good idea of the mountain terrain in this area.

So a little about Switzerland. Historically, the land area of Switzerland has Greek and Roman history just as many other European and near-east countries. Although you don’t typically think of Rome when thinking about Switzerland, you do have Roman archaeological sites in the country, such as Augusta Raurica in the north central part of the country and Avenches, located close to Bern, in the central part of the country. The 12 and 13th centuries saw the rise of the “Old Swiss Confederacy” (the common CH abbreviation you now see for Switzerland, which is Confoederatio Helvetica, Latin for “Swiss Confederation”). This era brought many of the communities of the central Alps together. This union allowed the Swiss to fight against other European powers, such as the Habsburg Empire, and win some notable victories, which established some level of Swiss independence in the region. However, due to some internal weaknesses and the power of the French in the Napoleonic era, the Swiss did fall under French rule for a short time. That French rule ended toward the beginning of the 19th century, with the Swiss reestablishing independence and also beginning the long road of Swiss neutrality, which is still in existence today.

The attitude of neutrality even precipitates down to their animals.  Walk along the quite mountain trails between the villages and try to pet the goats, cows, sheep, dogs, and cats along the way. You will find they accept the petting, but very nonchalantly, and may walk away at any time and stare at you indignantly, as the cow below did to us. Hey, it’s Switzerland.

swiss cow

Neutral Swiss Cow

Just up from the village we were residing in is the peak of the Schilthorn. This peak is notable for a revolving restaurant perched at the top (@ 9,744 ft.). The restaurant and the associated viewing platforms offer spectacular views of the Eiger, Mӧnch, and Jungfrau peaks across the valley. These peaks are commonly noted as “Top of Europe,” which is served by the highest running cog-wheel train in Europe.

eiger monch jungfrau switzerland

The Three Peaks: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau

Also, the restaurant at the top of the Schilthorn is one of the main settings for the film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” a James Bond 007 movie from the late 60s. They blew it up in the movie, but, luckily, it is actually still there and serving a delicious “007 Breakfast Buffet” at 10,000 feet.

Schilthorn 007 Restaraunt

Breakfast at 10,000

Over the next day or two, we’ll dedicate a few other posts to some Roman ruins we visited and the peak of the Jungfrau.